With Whom He Is Pleased

With Whom He Is Pleased


The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Genesis 22:9-18

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace. Micah 5:2-5

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:1-14

The scriptures read this morning were written by various men over several thousand years, from different professions, in different languages and from different parts of the world. These passages all point to the same thing: a coming Savior, a Messiah who would restore man into right relationship with God and defeat the power of darkness. These aren’t the only scriptures that speak of a Messiah. In Genesis we read the account of Abram, who would later be called Abraham. He lived 2,000 years before Jesus was born.

God spoke to Abraham and told him that he would be a father to a son and eventually the father of many nations and his offspring would be a blessing to all. When God made His promise to Abraham, he was 75. His wife, Sarah, was 65 and they were childless. Abraham waited for 25 years as God continued to promise him a son, an heir. Finally at the age of about 100, his wife Sarah gave birth to a son, Isaac. What joy Abraham must have had over a long-awaited desire and longing fulfilled! Abraham loved his son. He had longed for a son, waited for that son, and cared for him more than anything else. When Isaac became a young man, God spoke to Abraham again:

He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:2

We may wonder how God could ask Abraham to make such a sacrifice, but after reading the entire account, we understand that God was testing Abraham’s faith and He provided another sacrifice in the final moment. Before that moment, when they were close to the place of sacrifice, Isaac asked his father, “I see the fire and the wood but where is the lamb? Where is the sacrifice?” Abraham responds that God Himself will provide the lamb. That is what Christmas is about: at the right time in history, in the right place, God provided another sacrifice, the only sacrifice sufficient for our sins. When Abraham offered Isaac on that mountain in Moriah, it was a foreshadow of what God would do for us. “For God so loved the world He gave his only Son as an offering for our sin” (John 3:16). God sacrificed His son Jesus as an offering for our sin, the final and true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus also came willingly and obediently but He never asked God, “Where is the sacrifice?” Jesus knew His call. The wood Isaac carried represented the cross and the fire represented the judgment of God for our sins. At Christmas we celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus. We remember Mary the virgin mother of Jesus, the manger, the angels, the magi, the wise men and the star. All of those are signs of Christmas that point to Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior. The signs point to the One descended from Abraham who would be a blessing to all nations and who would bring peace:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:13-14

Peace is what we all want. If there is a pandemic in our world today, it is unrest and violence. There is war and unrest throughout Europe; the Middle East is filled with violence and war; the African continent has been torn apart by violence and civil wars; we hear the familiar chants of protestors here in the US. This national violence crosses borders, ages, ethnicity, religions and financial status. Unrest and violence has crept into the family structure too with the dissolution of families and instances of abuse. Where does this violence and unrest begin? It begins with us, with individuals who are not at peace with God or themselves. It begins in the heart of every human:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? James 4:1

The passage goes on to say that you desire and do not have, so you murder and covet. You do not have because you do not ask God and when you do ask, you ask for selfish reasons. The problem first and foremost is our hearts. There will never be peace in any man or in any land until there is peace with God. Peace with God means that we are no longer at war with Him, we are no longer opposed to Him. We have rebellious hearts that want things our way for our glory and in that pursuit we have offended God through our sin but Jesus came to bring peace. Jesus brings peace with God that ushers in the peace of God in our hearts and contentment in our souls. Jesus came to make a way for peace between God and man and among men.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14

There is peace among men with whom God is pleased. Who is God pleased with? All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), meaning we have all offended Him. We have all displeased Him. We were born children of wrath, in darkness, dead in our trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:3). We are enemies of God (Romans 5:10).

How do we become those with whom He is pleased? What can we do? How can we make up for the things we have done? The good news is that God doesn’t expect us to because we can’t! There is nothing we could do on our own to pay back or make up for our offenses to Him. This brings us back to the reason for Christmas, for celebrating the birth of Jesus. God sent His son with whom He was very pleased to be payment for our offenses.

Just after Jesus was baptized God spoke and said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). After Jesus revealed His glory to three of His disciples, God spoke and said, “This is my son in whom I am pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). Jesus pleased His heavenly Father from the beginning. We find the Father’s pleasure in us through Jesus.

God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were enemies, Jesus died for us. We were enemies yet Jesus made the way. God made Him who knew no sin to become sin so we could be made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’ righteousness makes us right before God and puts us in a position where God is pleased with us.

Through Jesus we have peace with God. We are no longer enemies but adopted in as children who can cry out to Him “Abba, Father.” Once we have peace with God we can have the peace of God. We can be confident that He is with us in the worst storm and confident that even in the best times, He is still better. We also have peace with one another through Christ.

Jesus Himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). He broke down the dividing wall between man and God and between us who are in Christ. “And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:17).

The angels were right when they said, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among those with whom He finds pleasure.” Not all will experience the peace of God but those who believe in the atoning work of Christ will. For all those who cry out to God and say, “I know I have sinned and I have offended a holy God and He is not pleased. But I also know Jesus, with whom God the Father is pleased, who died for my sin, paid for my sin and gives His righteousness to all who believe and by faith I receive that Gift.” Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). With faith in Jesus, we please Him.

This Christmas let’s not stop at the signs of Christmas but look at the One to whom they point. Jesus came for a reason, to save us from the eternal consequences of our sins, to save His creation for His glory and our eternal good, to restore us into right relationship with Him. There are two kinds of people, those that know His peace and those that do not.

If you have drifted from the presence and peace of God this is the day to repent. There is no greater way to spend Christmas than on your knees in His presence, experiencing His peace. If you have never before confessed Jesus as your Lord, today is the day of salvation and now is the time.

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9, 13

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In Genesis we read that Abraham was a man called by God to be the father of many and a blessing to all nations, but he was childless. Abraham waited on God’s promise for 25 years. When Abraham was about 100, his wife Sarah gave birth to a son, Isaac. In Genesis 22, God tells Abraham to take his son to Moriah and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering. “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2). We may wonder how God could ask Abraham to make such a sacrifice, but after reading the entire account, we understand that God was testing Abraham’s faith and He provided another sacrifice in the final moment. This is the meaning of Christmas: Jesus is that sacrifice for us. “For God so loved the world He gave his only Son as an offering for our sin” (John 3:16). God sacrificed His son Jesus for us.

The account of Abraham and Isaac does not give us Isaac’s perspective. He does ask his father, “I see the fire and the wood but where is the lamb? Where is the sacrifice?” Abraham responds that God Himself will provide the lamb. Isaac was not a child or even a boy; he was a young man strong enough to carry the wood for a burnt offering. Despite his questions, Isaac went willingly as an obedient son.

Jesus also came willingly and obediently but He never asked God, “Where is the sacrifice?” Jesus knew His purpose. In the garden He would plea, “If there is any other way take this cup from me but not my will but your will be done” (Matthew 26:39). As Christmas we think of Jesus the baby, vulnerable and a miracle child. Even more amazing is the pre-incaranate Holy Jesus, anything but vulnerable who came willingly and obediently:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-3, 14

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

We see Jesus in Old Testament appearances known as Christophanies, where He appears as the Angel of the Lord. In Joshua He showed Himself as a warrior, the commander of the Lord’s army (Joshua 5) as Israel began to conquer the Promised Land. In Judges He showed Himself to Gideon when He commissioned Gideon to battle. Gideon offered up an offering to the Angel of the Lord and He consumed the offering (Judges 6). Jesus interceded for Israel in 2 Kings 19:34-35, striking down 185,000 Assyrians during the night.

The correct picture of Jesus is Warrior, Creator, Conqueror, King, Deliverer and Sustainer. This Jesus, eternal and omnipotent, the almighty, is found in a manger, having become a part of His own creation. He humbly comes as a baby, a tender shoot in dry ground (Isaiah 53:3). He was born in questionable circumstances, among common people, without much earthly notice. Jesus would never be noticed because of His looks or profession, but He came out of His own will with great intention. He came to live as a man yet fully God: He would be tempted in all things yet without sin. Jesus walked this planet amongst His creation fallen and fowl and never ceased to love. Jesus had a perfect relationship with the Father through the Spirit. He was not calloused in any way, even though He would have been aware of sin all around Him at all times. Jesus never became accustomed to sin. Was His heart broken moment after moment as He walked through the sewer of sin we call home? He was misunderstood, scorned, rejected, and misrepresented yet He continued to walk to the cross in love. Although that journey was planned for all eternity, it began the day He was born. If we see Jesus simply as a baby we miss the point of this glorious act of love, humility, and obedience.

Philippians 2 gives us some insight; Paul was writing to the Christians in Philippi about resisting internal strife and division. Paul essentially says, “Listen, have you ever been encouraged by Jesus or comforted by Him? Have you ever experienced His presence through the Spirit? Of course you have so stop thinking about yourselves so much and set your minds on Jesus, on His love. Count others more important and consider their needs because it is what Jesus has done for you.”

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

This is the essence of Christmas: Jesus leaving glory at the will of His Father, not resistant but in full obedience and submission to the point of death, even death on a cross. He did not come to earth for a good education or career. He came to defeat sin and provide salvation. He came to model humility and obedience for us. He came to demonstrate His love of the Father and His love for us.

“Have this mind among yourselves…” As Christians we should think differently from others. We should consider others and their needs more important because this is our mindset in Christ Jesus. We have the mind of Christ; this mind is granted to us by God (1 Corinthians 2:16). We are to love our brothers in Christ (we are one in Jesus), we are to love our enemies (those who oppose us), and we are to love our neighbors (those in need). That was once us to Jesus; we were in desperate need and at great cost Jesus paid the price. We were His enemies, yet Christ died for us.

“He was in the form of God…” Jesus was in the form of God, meaning Jesus existed from the beginning and from the beginning, Jesus had all the qualities and attributes of God. They were rightfully His; He existed as one with God.

“He humbled himself…” Jesus emptied Himself; His position was not taken from Him. As Isaac carried the wood to be sacrified, so Jesus emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant and made the way to be a sacrifice for us. Jesus, a man in every way yet was without sin. He humbled Himself to become a man for His Father’s glory and our good.

“Obedient to the point of death…” Jesus was obedient to the point of death, death on a cross. God incarnate walked among men completely obedient to the will of the Father for His glory and our God. Jesus did not remain in an earthly body, in a place of disdain; He ascended to heaven. When His service was finished, He was highly exalted:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

Jesus was the greatest servant of all, eternal God living among finite man and when His service was complete God highly exalted Him above every other name! At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord. Some will confess Jesus on this side of the grave and many will confess on the other side. We can’t avoid Jesus. He will right all wrongs either through His work on the cross or on judgment day.

Jesus Christ is Lord. What does that look like for those of us who have confessed Jesus as Lord? Two things will characterize a life that believes Jesus is Lord: Count others as more significant than yourselves, and don’t just look out for your own interests but also the interests of others.

Count others as more significant – The concept of considering others more important is not popular today. You won’t find a book about thinking of others first for a successful career, but you will find numerous books on self-esteem, self-love, self-reliance, self-awareness, self-discipline, self-motivation, self-acceptance, self-actualization and self-promotion (along with millions of selfies!) Some of the most used hashtags include #selfie and #me.

Why is this? Because humility is found in the shadow of God (Piper). Our understanding of who God is puts us in our rightful place. When we remove God from our society, we become the standard. That standard says we all have the right to be whatever we want to be and do whatever we want to do. So whom do we worship? Who is always competing for the number one position in our lives? Self! When self takes over, humility is thrown out.

In essence, pride is an act of unbelief. Pride does not believe God will or has provided all that we need to be satisfied and we must find another means of satisfaction. Self becomes most important, not the glory of God. Self is set upon the altar and replaces God. We become god and therefore the needs of others become secondary.

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”Jeremiah 9:23-24

From these verses, it’s clear that the three main sources of pride are knowledge, power, and money. We are to boast only in the Lord. Humility comes from understanding where we stand in Christ, out of a changed heart from encountering Him:

My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Psalm 34:2

so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 10:17

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

A person who has acknowledged Jesus as Lord is a person who counts others as more important than themselves, a humble person who recognizes we all need a savior. No one has earned a position of preference; we serve one another because of how Christ has served us.

Look out for the needs of others – Actively seek out the needs of others and fix our eyes on the needs of others.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:29-37

We are not the good Samaritan but the man laying helpless and half dead at the side of the road. It is Jesus who comes along and saves us. He was willing to pay whatever it took and left glory, taking on the form of man, being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. “He became sin who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Now as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, we can fix our eyes on the needs of others because Jesus paid the greatest cost to meet our greatest need, salvation. When we give, it is not to pay Jesus back or earn His acceptance but to point to the greatest giver, Jesus Himself.

When was the last tine you gave someone a ride, loaned out your car, made a meal for a family, prayed with someone, listened instead of talking, deferred on anything? There are needs all around us and as followers of Jesus, those who claim He is our Lord, we should be competing to meet the needs of others to point people to Jesus. The needs God brings into our lives aren’t bigger than Him. We give because He first gave to us.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

Those submitted to the Lord consider others more important than themselves and look for ways to meet the needs of others.

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We close our study of Mark in the same place we started, with the call to follow Jesus. Hopefully we now look at His call on our lives with a greater passion for Him and new understanding of what that call means in everyday life.

If we gathered wood and stacked it to build a fire but never lit the fire, it would be like standing around an unlit fire – purposeless and foolish. The fire would also not serve the purpose it was intended to serve. When we light a fire, it creates warmth and naturally attracts others. In essence, it’s easy to stack wood, learn about Jesus and the amazing things He has done, but never light the fire or respond to the call. We see no power with an unlit fire, and no one is attracted to it. Why do’t we light the fire? One reason is fear or lack of faith.

Faith brings boldness and courage; fear is the opposite. The Bible tells us that the cowardly will not be in heaven, meaning those without faith (Revelation 21:8). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). What are we fearful of? That God will take everything from us? That we will not live life to the fullest or miss out on something? That He will call us to some remote part of the world? Are we afraid we will lose friends or be looked down upon? Are we afraid of being wrong? If we were to say, “God, I give you my all,” what is the first hesitation that comes to mind? Is that where we are putting our trust? These ideas come from a lack of understanding of God’s great love for us. While we were sinners, Christ died for us – what more could God do to prove His love? God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:16-19). God doesn’t need us so He is free to just love us. All that He asks from us is so that we can enjoy Him more, for His glory and our good.

We hesitate to follow Jesus because of fear, but as our understanding of Jesus grows, so does our faith and boldness. As our love for Him grows, so does our desire to follow Him. He becomes more valuable and our relationship with Him becomes more important than the things of this world, the things we once looked at for security, identity, and purpose. This is clearly illustrated in Mark 10:

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Mark 10:17-23

What do we see from this man’s interaction with Jesus? Many of us probably see ourselves at some level. The man realized his need and recognized that something was lacking in his life; he ran to Jesus. It was not normal for a rich man to run through the crowd but he had a sense of urgency; he was wrestling in his heart. The things he invested his life in had not satisfied him. Just like this man, we have a need for Jesus not just for salvation but every day, in every moment.

By kneeling before Jesus, the man showed respect for Him as a well-known teacher. There are many who have a respect for Jesus as a teacher, a moral model, or a prophet but do not know Him or follow Him. The man called Jesus, “Good teacher,” but Jesus did not automatically receive that title and said, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” Essentially Jesus was asking the man to recognize him as God. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)

The man told Jesus that he had kept all the commands from his youth, but was still unsettled. Outwardly the man may have kept all the commandments, but not in his heart. He knew he was lacking something or he would not have approached Jesus. Living a religious life is more about oneself than about Jesus; it’s like eating a favorite meal without taste buds – completely unsatisfying.

Jesus looked at the man and loved him. Jesus stopped, listened and responded in love: “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor.” There is always one thing that will come between us and Jesus, that we will depend on more than we depend on Jesus. Jesus calls us to give up what will never satisfy to gain what will bring eternal satisfaction. The man was discouraged and he walked away because he had many possessions. The cost was too great for the man because he missed Jesus’ love for him and he missed that Jesus would give him treasure in heaven. Jesus wanted the man to be unhindered in his walk with Him. Jesus was not taking away something valuable and giving him nothing. The man didn’t understand the value of what Jesu was offering. When good things become God things, those things become idols and a barrier between us and God.

Jesus is calling each one of us to follow Him and there is a cost:

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. Mark 1:17-20

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. Mark 2:14

These individuals left everything to follow Jesus and it came with a cost. Fisherman or tax collector, this may have been a temporary leaving for some but there was a definite cost involved: loss of business, reputation, falling out with family. As Jesus’ popularity grew, He became more direct regarding the call and the cost because many were following Him for the miracles of healing and potential political power.

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Mark 8:34

Jesus’ words were not ambiguous; this is a clear call to abandon everything, lay down your life, and follow. The cross had one purpose and that was to kill. We think we crucify ourselves by only offering God parts of our lives, but it is a complete abandonment. The call is to follow and the cost is everything and absolutely nothing at the same time. It is all that we are, an abandonment of self to Jesus but it is nothing in comparison to what we gain. The cost is nothing when all that we hold is temporary and what God gives is eternal. Jesus told the ruler to go and sell everything and give to the poor for treasure in heaven. Jesus calls us to give up that which will never satisfy for that which will bring eternal satisfaction.

What does it mean to follow Jesus? “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men'” (Mark 1:17). His calling changes our identity and purpose. When we follow Jesus, He becomes our identity and we view all of life through His lens. Through His death on the cross, Jesus brings us out of darkness and death and into light and life. We identify with Christ’s burial, death, and resurrection (Colossians 2:12) and that changes our purpose. We no longer exist only for the temporal but for the eternal. When we follow Jesus, old things pass away and He makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17). In this new identity and purpose we are His ambassadors, representatives of Jesus. When Jesus ascended into heaven His work on the cross was finished but His work among us was not. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). His work continues in us and through us. His purpose was to seek and save the lost as a fisher of men (us).

And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. Mark 1:38-39

His purpose becomes our purpose. He came to preach the good news of salvation. Jesus came to preach and He healed people, casting out demons. He commissioned His disciples to do the same. To follow Jesus means we find our identity in Him and our purpose in Him. Our purpose is to preach the gospel, making disciples, and to confront evil, casting out demons.

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. Mark 3:13-15

The objective is a relationship with Jesus. He called the disciples to Himself that they might be with Him. Jesus called them to be with Him to know Him and to impart His authority. We’re called to know Jesus so that we can testify to Him. To know Him, we have to spend time with Him. When we spend time with someone, we get to know them – we begin to understand what moves them, what delights them, what is important to them, or what makes them angry. We become like them. As we spend time with Jesus, we become like Him:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Second, Jesus called the disciples to be with Him to give them authority. We find authority in Him – Jesus gave the twelve the authority to cast out demons. When we read, “he appointed twelve” the word appointed is not strong enough. He made or created the twelve. He did not call those already qualified or empowered; instead, He qualified and empowered the twelve. Jesus equips anyone He calls. He does not call us into His service based on our qualifications. Our sufficiency is from God and Jesus is the basis of our confidence:

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

Jesus calls and equips to send us out in word and deed to share the call and life-changing power of Jesus. Just like the disciples, we are sent out to preach the gospel (in word) and cast out demons (in deed).

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: That Christ died for our sins in accordance to the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day.. 1 Corinthians 15:3

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? Romans 10:13-14

We have been given authority to fight a spiritual battle:

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits…So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. Mark 6:7, 12-13

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 1 Timothy 4:1

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! James 2:19

No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 10:20-21

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 1 Timothy 4:1

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

In Luke 10, Jesus sent the 72 out two by two to preach, pray for laborers and cast out demons. They returned rejoicing in their authority and Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:18-20). Essentially Jesus said, “Rejoice that you know me!”

To follow Jesus means we find our identity and purpose in Him. To follow Jesus means we are to be with Him. To follow Jesus means we are sent out with His authority to preach the Gospel, cast out demons, and heal the sick.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus calls His disciples to make disciples; this is a command. Are you a disciple? Do you find your identity and purpose in Jesus? Who are you discipling? As disciples, we preach the good news, confront evil, cast out demons and pray for the sick. We walk by faith, not fear.

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Week 1: The Beliefs of a Christian | A Christian Worldview 

Week 2: The Activity of a Christian | Prayer 

Week 3: The Activity of a Christian | The Bible

Week 4: The Activity of a Christian | Community 

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A leadership training teaching from Pastor Tim on how to study the Bible:

For more, check out this video: What is the Bible Basically About?

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Acts 18:24-28

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

John Wesley
John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist movement. In the early 1700s, John was raised in the home of a minister. He attended Charterhouse and Oxford and he was subsequently ordained into clergy of the Church of England. While he was at Oxford he helped to form what was called “the holy club.” Finally he accepted an invitation from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to become a missionary to the American Indians in Georgia, where he failed miserably.

Forced to return to England he wrote, “I went to America to convert the Indians; but, oh, who shall convert me?” Upon His return to England John met with an old friend from a group called the Moravians who led him into an understanding of faith and grace. Prior to that experience, he knew more theology and was more dedicated than most believers, but he was powerless. Much like Apollos, he was filled with knowledge but his understanding of the Gospel was incomplete, like many in our city and our churches today.

Apollos was Jewish-raised with an understanding of the law and ceremonies, and the coming Messiah. He was a native of Alexandria and highly educated (the Alexandrian library held 700K books). He was eloquent and competent in the Scriptures and understood the Bible – he may have worked on the interpretation of the Hebrew OT to Greek. He was instructed in the way of the Lord and had been exposed to some things of Jesus/Messiah. What he knew of Jesus, he taught accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. John the Baptizer preached repentance and the coming Messiah; his call was to prepare the way for the Messiah. Apollos’ message was not incorrect or insincere, just incomplete – he did not know the full story. How much did he know? Apparently not the death, resurrection and the Spirit of God who comes onto all who believe.

Like many of us today, we understand only half or part of what the Gospel has for us. We hear it preached that we are saved by grace and from that point there seems to be two paths: an over-realized position of grace or an under-realized position of grace.

Over-realized position
New creation – Forgiven with no more sin, this group over-emphasizes positional sanctification, but neglects the process of being sanctified. There is no working out of salvation or demonstration of love through obedience. This group does not understand the holiness of God and lives under a powerless life.

Under-realized position
New Creation – Forgiven and justified, this group emphasizes the process of becoming sanctified, but lacks the positional sanctification in Christ. This group is always working and never rests; and therefore lives under condemnation, failure and a powerless life.

The first position lessens the need to appropriate grace and the call to holiness. The second position gives us no standing for grace and makes the call to holiness impossible. Both positions negate the need for grace and faith, believing grace is solely for the past (salvation). The Gospel, the Good News that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and raised from the dead, that He called us from darkness to life, is not only the key to salvation but our walk with Him in this world. God’s grace is just as important for our living out the Gospel as it is for our salvation, justification and sanctification. We are justified in Christ, positionally set apart and made holy, but we are also to work out our salvation, to run the race, to continue on.

1 Peter 2:5

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

James 1:4

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Hebrews 10:10-14

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We are sanctified and we are being sanctified – this should be no surprise as the Kingdom is here but not fully here; we see through a glass dimly so we see but not fully.

How does a proper understanding of grace and faith affect the way we handle sin?

Understand that by faith in Christ, positionally we are holy, set apart, and righteous – there is no condemnation for past, present, or future sin. We give thanks for the grace we have experienced, we rely on grace for victory in the present and we hope in the grace that is ours in the future. His victory is ours (1 John 5:4) and we have a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) BUT also realize that we are being made holy through our walk. We are being transformed from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18) and conformed in the image of Christ (Romans 8:29); as we walk in the Spirit, we have victory over our flesh (Galatians 5:16-17).

We are moved by our love for God. Our love for Him is demonstrated as we act in faith through obedience to the Father (1 John 5:2; 1 John 2:1-3). As our love for God grows, our obedience grows and He becomes our treasure and our great delight because we fix our eyes on Him (Psalm 119:11).

John 17:17 – Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Psalm 119

Saturate yourself in the Word of God and let Him do the work – let Him identify the strongholds, the idols, and the weakness of your flesh. Idols are powerless in the presence of God (1 Samuel 5 – The Philistines captured the ark of God and set it next to Dagon, god of the Philistines. During the night, Dagon fell face down before the ark with its hands and head cut off – the ark represents the power and presence of God).

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